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Language Arts Literacy

There were times, however, when Tiger got bored—bored with deer and monkey and frog and turtle and ox and boar. During those times, Tiger roared his dissatisfaction into the night and went looking for other prey.

One day, Tiger hid in the tall grass at the edge of the jungle. Even there, the grass shadows blended with his stripes, and none could see him.

Mice and voles scurried by. A snake slid into its hole. Tiger kept waiting.

It was evening when a strange creature with a pointed nose and a bushy tail appeared, creeping stealthily through the grass.

Tiger watched the stranger. He had heard of such a creature, but he had never seen it before. Stories told of how difficult this creature was to catch, but Tiger welcomed the challenge.

He watched as the bushy-tailed stranger stalked a mouse. He waited with his powerful muscles tensed. Then, just as the stranger pounced on his unhappy prey, Tiger leaped out.

The mouse darted away, but Tiger kept a firm grip on the stranger, who snarled in fury.

“How dare you!” cried the stranger with great indignation. “How dare you bare your fangs and claws to me, Fox, King of All Animals!”

“King, indeed!” said Tiger in surprise. “What gives you the right to make that claim?”

“Listen, and know,” said Fox. “When I prowl the jungle, the deer flee in alarm. The monkeys swing to the highest branches. The frogs dive into the deepest pools. And the turtles close their shells and hope to be mistaken for mere rocks. Even the wild oxen and wild boar, crashing through the undergrowth, keep a respectful distance.”

Tiger roared with fearsome laughter. “If you can show me that this is so,” he said, “I will let you go free. But if you cannot, I will eat you.”

“Very well,” said Fox, smiling slyly. “Follow me. We will walk together in the jungle.”

So Fox and Tiger strolled openly along the jungle paths. Fox went first, and Tiger followed close behind. And indeed, the deer fled, as did the monkeys and frogs. The turtles lay still in fear, and the oxen and boar kept their distance.

Tiger looked around in wonder at the frightened animals. Could it be possible that this small doglike creature in front of him was truly King of All Animals? Something smelled of trickery.

But Tiger had made a promise, and he always kept his promises.

“Go, strange one,” he said to Fox. “I do not know whether or not you are King of All Animals. But you have shown that Fear can walk the jungle with you. Go!”

And, lifting his bushy tail in triumph, Fox disappeared into the underbrush, leaving Fear behind.

GO ON

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